There is no answer on where the Rs. 5 crore collected over 10 years go
Around Rs. 5 crore, collected over 10 years as greenery cess, remains somewhere among the files in the bureaucratic labyrinths of Mangalore City Corporation (MCC), instead of materialising into trees or greenery in the city.
Since 2003, the Town Planning section of the corporation has been collecting 50 paise per square feet as greenery cess from builders of residential complexes and Rs. 1 per square feet from commercial complexes who obtain building licences. This adds to Rs. 3.93 crore from 2003 to 2013 in the Lalbagh office, and Rs. 52.35 lakh in the Surathkal office and around Rs. 67 lakh from the Kadri office of Town Planning section from 2007 onwards.
Considering the frequent cries from citizens’ organisations of a concreted Mangalore, the question arises: where did the funds go? Even MCC officials do not have a clear answer, instead redirecting this correspondent from one department to another.
While the Environment section said they have not received the funds, the Accounts department said the cess was clubbed into a “general fund”, and expenditure for green activities alone could not be tabulated. “The funds are used for other purposes, not necessarily for green projects in the city. I do not think there have been many greenery projects in the city,” said an Accounts Officer. The officer said the last “known” expenditure was three years ago, when the Forest Department was given money for a sapling drive.
An official from the Forest Department, Mangalore Range, confirmed that in 2009-10, the MCC had given Rs. 8 lakh from the fund to the department for an afforestation drive. “Since then we have not received anything, while we do not see many green-related activities in the city being done by the MCC. If used properly, the fund can add significantly to the aesthetics of the city and preserve a green cover,” said an official.
In the subsequent years, the department had requested for funds numerous times for similar drives, added the official. “Apart from sapling plantations, even small amounts given can be used to conduct environment awareness programmes in schools and colleges,” said the official.
Though unclear on the expenditure of the cess, K. Harish Kumar, MCC Commissioner, said the corporation is looking into the requests of the Forest Department. “We may consolidate the amount, and hand it over to the Forest Department,” he said.